Current Issues in Art Education.
Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE)
Discipline Based Art Education, otherwise known as DBAE in the teaching community, is a method developed in the 1980’s wherein art education was nationally standardized to partner teaching art in public schools (K-12) alongside core curriculum. The DBAE curriculum focuses on the art production, art history, art criticism and aesthetics. This is a tool for students to acquire literacy in the arts, in conjunction with other subject areas – whether they consider themselves “good” at art or not, they can still learn to make, understand, appreciate and consider art as a whole.
An Enduring Idea is a concept we want our students to gain knowledge of, and by the end of the section, to know it deeply, to comprehend it fully - to really understand what they’ve learned. Using Enduring ideas helps to shape knowledge and skills we introduce and explore as a class. These Enduring Ideas inform the project content, rationale, instruction, assessment, and curriculum design. It offers an overarching and meaningful theme to teach, while providing a firm foundation for the students to build upon, absorb, know, and reflect on. An Enduring Idea is the “key” to the unit, establishing a foundation of inquiry – wherein the arts and other curriculum might be meaningfully interwoven, if taught in a collaborative, comprehensive and holistic way via Arts Integration. Enduring Ideas are wide-ranging concepts which will deepen student understanding and empower them to become authentic inquirers and provide solid purpose for their learning. Enduring Ideas help teachers develop clear objectives within a given topic range and allow students creative leeway within which to connect themselves to the work, in a deep and meaningful way.
“Eight Studio Habits” are a lens through which we can look at studio structure, habits and frames of mind. These structures focus on learning (demonstration, lecture, students working, critique and exhibition), classroom management (class structure, studio transition, etc.); the habits include understanding art worlds, observation and exploration, vision and design, persistence, craft production, expression, development, and reflection.
Teaching For Artistic Behavior (TAB)
Teaching For Artistic Behavior or TAB, is a new, amazing, and enlightened approach to art education. This method incorporates all the Standards and foundations of art, while also encouraging students to find their own “voice” in their art from an early age. TAB is a method of art education wherein the projects and media are choice-based, student-driven, and conducted in a studio-center environment. Students are encouraged to explore and playfully connect to their inner creative drives.
There are four basic practices of TAB: (1) the students are artists, they are not “blindly” following what they are told to do (as in teacher-driven projects); (2) pedagogy, where the relationship between the teacher and student is of a mentoring style, and the students are responsible for their own work and studio; (3) classroom context, where the teacher consciously establishes a healthy studio work environment by creating studio centers, managing tools and supplies, structuring time, and facilitate student processes; (4) assessment, wherein students actively participate in their own evaluations, writings about their work, collaborative and constructive critiques, exhibitions, learn to take ownership for their work, and view and respect other artist choices.
Demonstrations are a key way for teachers to share the fundamentals of art, share guidelines and concepts, instruct in the proper use of tools, and gently guide the students’ self-directed projects, thus ensuring Standards are being met.
Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)
Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) employs critical thinking skills; it encourages students to draw conclusions, elaborate, use evidence, and thoughtfully argue their opinions. This draws from the initial visual cues we as humans learned to use as infants – vision was one of the very first ways we learned about our surroundings. VTS is best facilitated as a group, so that learners can bounce ideas off each other and work collaboratively to develop their own personal thoughts, language skills and begin to articulate what they are thinking, feeling and reasoning.
This method of looking at artwork generally begins with a silent viewing period, a moment for students to look at the work of art and to analyze it independently. Open-ended questions follow this, such as “What do you see?” and “What’s going on in this picture?”. We gently nudge for more information with prompts such as “What makes you say that?” and “where in the art do you notice this?”. This process is repeated and we ask “What more can we find?”. As the facilitator of VTS, we will repeat back to the group what was said by the student, and say it in a different way. We move our body to the part of the artwork discussed and visually indicate what is being discussed. In closure, we might add “Does anyone have anything else they wish to say about this piece before we move on?”
STEAM is an acronym for Science, technology, engineering, art and math. The educational approach to learning which uses these subject areas to facilitate student inquiry based critical thinking and further problem solving skills. STEAM is an expansion of STEM, incorporating the arts as an important piece of education to enrich student development a creative growth mindset. Explorations in STEAM encourage hands-on exploration in a cross over between all of these disciplines. Integrating these subjects with an eye towards the future, students might explore robotics, interactive projects such as circuitry, or other creative building. The hands-on practice makes this approach exciting and fun for learners! Authentic STEAM lessons represent a collaboration of curriculum and standards from at least two of these subject areas working in tandem. The hands-on approach to problem solving and creating growth mindsets in individuals, the “A” in STEAM can stand for a variety of arts integration opportunities; including but not limited to music, dance, design, drama, visual art, film, creative writing, architecture, gardening or more!
Diversity and Multiculturalism
Diversity and multiculturalism in education is more than cultural awareness. It is an overarching concept that needs to be incorporated holistically into our classroom community. In being thoughtful of our words, actions and our mindset, we have the opportunity to expand our world view, create mindfulness, understanding, and even empathy for cultures, groups and populations other than our own. When we become aware of our own potential for bias, understand our own cultural norms, we can then understand deeper concepts of xenophobia or misrepresentations of minority groups and people who are different from ourselves.
Working to encompass all under-represented groups (people of color, women, people with disabilities, etc) in our curriculum and lesson content is offering students a more complete world-view. Excluding such groups can make our subject areas less accurate and incomplete.
There are steps we can take to integrate multicultural education in our classrooms, such as: integrating diversity in professional artist representation; encouraging community participation and incorporating social activism into lessons; implementing deeper learning opportunities, through research tied to various art projects; supplementing curriculum with current events and news stories; drawing parallels between distant experiences of the past and the world we live in today; creating multicultural projects that require students to choose a background outside of their own; professional development on multi-cultural education in the classroom.
Needs of students with disabilities vastly differ, and are based on individualized requirements. Whether the student has an IEP, a 504 or is utilizing wrap-around services for support without an official special education plan, teachers must remain mindful of accommodations, ensuring that we meet the needs of all students - including those without identified disabilities.
In Vermont, age 3-21 disability determinations include: Autism Spectrum Disorder, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairments, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.
If a student’s disability has an adverse effect on the student’s educational performance, with major negative effect on performance (as measured by standardized tests, grades, curriculum-based assessments, work sample and/or portfolios, documented in one or more basic skills areas), they may meet special needs qualifications; however, many struggling students’ needs can be met through specialized instruction or targeted intensive intervention without necessarily having the “Special Education” label. All students can benefit from individualized learning.
Personalized Learning and Differentiation
Personalized learning is just as variable and individualized as students are unique. Technology can offer alternative methods for students to absorb and express information, as can the arts. Visual is a potent method to offer personalized learning, and build confidence in the process of learning – as students begin to understand their own learning styles better, they will become motivated and more engaged learners. Assessing individual needs of each student, implementing (or allowing students to choose) what works best for them and empowering children to become independent scholars, all serve to remove obstacles to learning. Working in this method takes into consideration that there are innumerable ways to solve a problem, and that the development in progress is just as important as the outcomes.
Whereas “differentiation” is teacher-led instruction given to groups or learners based on learning styles, “personalization” is student-driven style of learning; “individualization” provides instruction to each learner in a highly-personalized format. In Vermont, as we move towards Proficiency Based Learning, student lessons are increasingly becoming more individualized. This approach forces students and faculty to own their learning and be active participants, by paying attention to our knowledge, our abilities, our differences, and our strengths. What does each student need? How do we learn best? What are our strongest (and weakest) multiple intelligences? How can we solve any given problem, and learn to be improved researchers while we strengthen our critical reasoning skills?
Alternate Approaches to Education
Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia are just a few alternative approaches to education.
In the Montessori approach, students learn and grow at their own pace. There is a strong emphasis on self-correction and learning through play; classrooms consist of blended age groups, and children of older ages help support the learning of the younger students. Teachers guide students with minimal intervention and there is a lot of free choice, with loose curricula structure. In this format, children learn through play and curiosity - which can encourage children to keep fun in their learning and encourage a growth mindset. This also helps with confidence building, allowing for freedom of choice and honoring each child’s individual preferences, interests, and fosters independence.
Within the Waldorf approach, there is consistency in daily and weekly routine, benefiting children who need reliable, predictable structure. There is a robust emphasis on creativity, cooperation, community, and learning through experience. Nature and the outdoors are highly valued in curricula, classroom activities, and exposure to media is drastically limited. There is a heavy art-based approach to learning in Waldorf schools. No homework, exams, or handouts are given. There are often no desks, and the classroom is setup to facilitate individual learning. Developing “how to think” and building strong critical thinking and creative problem solving. Alike Montessori, multiple ages are grouped together in Waldorf schools.
The Reggio Emilia approach brings an emphasis on importance of exploration, and student interest drives the learning and lessons. Children seek out answers through experience, focus on cooperation, problem solving, and conflict resolution. Similarly to Montessori and Waldorf, Reggio Emilia also has a high level of family involvement. In art education at Reggio Emilia schools, the students work with the studio teacher (Atelierista), learning with a wide variety of materials.
Drug, Alcohol and Substance Abuse
The use of drugs, alcohol and substance abuse runs ramped in our communities, and sadly this does include within the school systems. Many children are unfortunately involve as bystanders to parental addictions, teens and pre-teens can be struggling with addictions of their own.
Risk factors include age of first exposure, low self-esteem, poor social skills, genetic factors, family history, unstable home life, abuse (including physical, sexual, emotional), exposure and access in the community, lack of law enforcement in the community, perception of substance abuse as a ‘norm’ and can be at the highest risk of using drugs during periods of transition.
Protective factors which lower the risk of students trying drugs include personal and social competence, optimism and a positive outlook on life, good problem solving skills, social involvement, and a feeling of inclusion in the school community, stable home and family life, close relationships with a mentor adult who is not their parent, a peer group who does not use drugs or view using as a ‘norm’.
Warning signs, while are not necessarily indicative of use, but can cue us in on something bigger happening in the student’s life include sleeping in class, a change in personality, or a major shift in friend groups, drastic decrease in quality of school work, missing assignments and/or class, and erratic behavior.
As teachers, we must seek to create a safe environment in our classrooms and cultivate a school culture of support. Striving to foster warm relationships with our students, and allowing them to feel seen and heard will help. As we establish mutual respect and proponents of open mindedness, justice, caring and respect, we can model positive interpersonal behavior and promote democratic values in our classrooms.